What is Physiologic Birth?
A normal physiologic labor and birth are powered by the innate human capacity of the woman and fetus. This birth is more likely to be safe and healthy because no unnecessary interventions disrupt normal physiologic processes. Some women and/or fetuses will develop complications that warrant medical attention to assure safe and healthy outcomes. However, supporting the normal physiologic processes of labor and birth, even in the presence of such complications, has the potential to enhance best outcomes for the mother and infant.
Benefits of Supporting and Fostering Physiologic Birth
Physiologic birth has the following identified benefits for women:
- Reduced peripartum morbidity primarily through avoidance of surgery and related complications;
- Possible reduction in chronic disease through improved likelihood of breastfeeding;
- Improved birth experience through access to supportive care and involvement in decision making; and
- Reduced out-of-pocket costs for maternity care primarily through reduced rate of cesarean birth.
Physiologic birth has the following identified benefits for infants:
- Reduced likelihood of iatrogenic harms related to augmentation, induction of labor, instrumental vaginal birth, neonatal respiratory distress, and neonatal lacerations;
- Possible reduction in likelihood of chronic disease related to cesarean delivery and disrupted or delayed breastfeeding; and
- Improved maternal-infant attachment.
The following factors disrupt normal physiologic childbirth:
- Induction or augmentation of labor;
- An unsupportive environment, ie, bright lights, cold room, lack of privacy, multiple providers, lack of support persons, etc.;
- Time constraints, including those driven by institutional policy and/or staffing;
- Nutritional deprivation;
- Opiates, regional analgesia, or general anesthesia;
- Operative vaginal (vacuum, forceps) or abdominal (cesarean) birth;
- Immediate cord clamping;
- Separation of mother and infant; and/or
- Any situation in which the mother feels threatened or unsupported.